Play The Game


Dear Artist,

Here’s yet another creative device that’s fun to put into service and frequently produces surprising results:

Think of your creativity as a game. Games generally have rules and restrictions, as well as an opponent. Games also offer the prospect of winning. In art the rules and restrictions are the limitations of the medium and the dimensions of the work; the opponent is mediocrity, and winning is finishing with a sense of triumph.

Think of a game of chess. Early moves often determine outcome. In mid-game you sometimes strike with your capital pieces; castle, knight, king. Other times, lacking a clear plan or direction, you move up a pawn. And then, at times, in order to add variety and challenge — perhaps out of daring or against a careless opponent — you purposefully make poor or thoughtless moves.

Set your own rules but make an early move unlike those you are used to. Challenge yourself by following with a capital piece: giant brush, roller, kitchen knife. Try strategy. Keep the end-play in mind but be prepared for unpleasantness. Introduce neglected gambits such as mixed media or run interference with a new color. When you don’t know what the next move should be, do something innocuous or playful until the way ahead becomes clear. Be risky or even foolish — then work your way out of it.

What have you got to lose? It’s only a game.

With game methodology there are so many variations and combinations that it’s a bona fide builder of creative muscle as well as a playground of discovery. A sense of fun helps make it an interactive event.

Best regards,


PS: “Work is more fun than fun.” (Noel Coward) “I think I play better tennis because the court is there.” (Robert Frost, regarding his use of iambic pentameter)


Games are great
by Pamela Franz


“Citizens of Earth”
by Pamela Franz

Here are two I’ve used:

Feel you’ve lost control of your palette? Overwhelmed by too many tubes of paint? Pick 3 tubes, a red, a yellow, and a blue. And white. Paint several canvases with just these tubes. You can do a nice portrait with only 3 colors. It’s a great way to review color mixing. Also good trivia (this was painted with only 3 colors!).

Spending too much time on one section of a painting? Going back to it again and again? Look at the clock. Give yourself 20 more minutes on it. Then; time’s up, move on.


Your own team
by Paul Jalouse

The game is solitaire and you are blessed to play it out on your own. Many creative professions—music, film, theatre, require a committee and a division of labour to make a satisfactory effect. Somebody doesn’t pull their weight. Sometimes some don’t even show up. But in painting, and perhaps writing, it’s best if you are your own committee, and above all you are every section of your own team.


Most frustrating game
by Murray

Golf, to my mind is the most frustrating game. It makes perfectly fine people into angry masanthropes. Mark Twain thought it was a good walk spoiled. But it too has that peripatecic metaphor for the act of painting—sections of real estate that must be traversed, stroke by stroke, with a series of wins adding to an overall completion. It too is a game you play against yourself, though there may be others in the field.


The art game
by Randy Klinger, Findhorn, Scotland

“Be someone! Be someone. Fast!”

I remember when I was a little boy in my family’s suburban house, I was watching television. The programme was a performance of a dance: a farm, a preacher, a wedding. The ritual taking place was joyful, then solemn, it reflected the waning weekend that was that Sunday. A time out of time. It wasn’t go-to-school time or come-in-for dinner. I remember that I felt this performance physically and the feeling was from the bottom to the top. It stayed with me, this feeling of elevation. The work was “Appalachian Spring” by the pioneering modern dancer, Martha Graham and the music by Aaron Copeland. It was different from the chill-up-the-spine that I would get singing my country’s national anthem or seeing a big marching band, a chill by which I was always embarrassed, but instead, a quiet and eye-opening happy/sadness. With this pleasurable and out-of-time reaction, I recognised that there were two worlds of feeling: the pedestrian and the elevated and with that it became clear to me that there were two results of human endeavour: artifact and art.

Again as a child, and again in my small world of television, I watched Maria Callas in her dressing room turn abruptly toward the camera, slapping down her mascara, “People work all day,” she said, “at jobs they hate. They come to the opera to hear Beauty.” And as a grown-up, busy at work, someone invited me to watch a video during lunch break. I brought my lunch and watched. It was one of Billie Holiday’s last performances. It was entertaining but at one point she was alone, lit on a black stage, as she sang “Strange Fruit”, a song about lynched blacks in the South, like fruit hanging from a tree. Her last note of that song cut through me in a way I could not have anticipated. I could not move. I could not eat. I could not cry. My sandwich held in my lap and the busy world of work outside. I had never known a silence like that.

I grew up in New York, a child who drew his toys. It was never a question for me of what would I do when I grew up; I made pictures, and no one in my family disagreed. About fifteen years ago, I needed to make something beyond what I knew. After a number of years of self-portraits, painting friends and acquaintances and hired models, I had become bored. I shared an office with a woman who seemed like such a strange package: shaped like a football player, misanthropic and ultra-right wing politically, who always left work at mysterious hours for mysterious reasons. I asked her, since she was a sculptor, albeit conceptual, if she knew any beautiful souls that she could send my way to paint. Beside the unusual package, she seemed so spiritually inclined, in fact, she had in a drunken state once confided in me that she was “born again”. As a secular Jew, I was mystified by this. The souls did start appearing. The most incredible people: a woman who had recently come out of an institution after having tried to take her life and had come back to sanity only through her newly adopted spiritual path, a man who had survived terrible beatings and abuse from within his family also coming slowly back to life, an actress who lived only from day to day on the barest of means but nonetheless pursued her art happily; souls so similar in their “deaths” and so illuminated in their resurrections. Finally, the reason for making pictures was to feel the love and terror in the company of another; the pleasure of chaos contained. I fell in love with my ‘collaborator’ and let the atmosphere of love in the unknown drive and carry the painting. I began to see, in my painting, that the less I tried, the more innovation and beauty I created. I couldn’t understand this. I had always believed, “Try, Push, Do, Make – and I will make it”. But that didn’t work anymore. All around me, graduates of art schools contrived to make ‘something new’, to be seen, exhibit, reviews in art magazines, parties — dressed in black, big business, big money. “Maybe I should want those things too?” I was taken to a party with big-name artists, introduced; … I felt lonely, pardoned myself and left. In Cologne, I was to be introduced by Belgian dealers to the best galleries at the International Art Market. “No, thank you, No, thank you,” I mumbled, hand hiding my mouth, as we passed around to stalls of the great marques of Europe. I made no connections, felt homesick and went home. Where was the simple joy and excitement of that child, who just liked, instinctively, to create pictures?

I changed how I lived and painted. It no longer seemed right to pay someone to be drawn, to ‘contain’ the liberating love and terrifying chaos within the context of life in a big, anonymous city. Eight years ago, I moved to the Findhorn community and I am taking collaboration a step further. I have no categories for my sitter, whether friend, acquaintance or work-mate. I live with my “models” now. And if they would like an exchange of energy, I will do that, and if they really like the painting, when it’s done, they can have it. If, by chance, the painting is sold, I will split the takings with my collaborator.

Students at Findhorn are asked to draw slowly, slow, slower; they are asked what they are truly attracted to, from their gut, as visual image; the experience of each line or colour applied compared to a banquet: do you choose what you like or what someone looking over your shoulder, a teacher, a critic, a parent, chooses for you? The very first exercise I begin with is this: Choose a fruit that is laid out before you, now, as slowly as possible, eat it. Slowly! I tell them, “This first exercise will be the most difficult of all.” Why? No one allows themselves to really savour their meal, their observation, their drawing, their lives, ultimately. “Hurry!” is the message of today. “Get a style now!” is the message of the art colleges.

I am beginning to fill each minute of my life with poetry: the elevated rather than the pedestrian, to speak words that are communion rather than chatter (someone asked me what I meant by chatter and I responded, “It’s what you say when you’re not in love”) and to pray and work towards art rather than artifact; like a beautiful song that leaves me in silence.



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